Though this tough economy probably has your employees feeling grateful to even have a job, that doesn’t mean they don’t need incentives. Incentives do more than just make people feel good. They prompt workplace excellence and employee loyalty. Here are five valuable incentives for your employees that will benefit everyone.

Make Them Co-Authors of Company Goals and Objectives

Many people think that incentives have to be cash or other tangible objects. Think again. Studies have shown that being asked for input is one of the most motivating factors in the workplace. People want to know that they’re part of a team and that their thoughts and views are well respected. If your company needs to establish goals or new initiatives, why not create a forum that lets employees share their ideas? Everyone has a distinct viewpoint and that quiet tech person or administrative assistant just may come up with a solution nobody thought of.

Communicate the need clearly from the beginning, ask for input and watch as ideas and solutions surface. Employee ideas that become company policy reward employees with a sense of ownership. They have become co-authors of your company’s goals and objectives. They will work harder to achieve these goals because they help set them. You will have a harder working team as a result.

Give Them a Shout Out

Everyone likes to be praised for a job well done. Why not take the opportunity to send out a “best practices” email company-wide for a job innovatively and successfully executed? Use it as a learning tool. Tell what the situation was, what the employee did to overcome the challenges they faced and what the end result was. This will pay you three dividends:

1) The employee you praise will be grateful and incentivized to produce even more.

2) By spelling out what they did correctly, it will be a learning tool for other employees to use.

3) It will inspire other employees to work harder and better because they may want the next best practices e-mail to be written about them.

Set Aside Bonus Money for the “We,” Not Just the “I”

If you have a sales organization, chances are you are paying them commission and bonuses. Why not set aside some of your commission budget for a group incentive? Let’s say that your company has an issue with client retention. You could set a company-wide goal for a dollar amount you want to retain from existing clients and if that number is reached, everyone gets a bonus. This allows your sales staff to be part of the solution to a company-wide issue. They will be partners in solving the issues, not just employees being told what to do. You’ll find they’ll work harder to reach this company goal as a result.

Perks Work

Think of things that make your employees’ lives easier and look to incentivize jobs well done by delivering these things. Perhaps someone who meets their objective, does a best practice or illustrates some other form of workplace excellence can get free parking for a period of time? Or you can designate a prime spot in the company lot for someone who earns a best practices distinction for a particular week. If your company doesn’t already provide coffee and tea for its employees, maybe a best practice winner earns free coffee and tea for their entire department for a week? Little perks go a long way toward building camaraderie and promoting workplace excellence.

Do Unto Others

A senior level publishing executive once told me. “Doing something for me is fine. But do something for my kids and I’ll be really grateful.” Aside from the overdone company picnics, your company can provide outings for your employees’ families. Hire a local theater group to do a production of The Lion King or a Harry Potter story where employees can bring their children. This will establish worker loyalty while motivating employees to work hard because they’ll feel as if your company cares about the people they care about the most.

While increased pay or cash incentives are always welcome, they do not ensure long term job satisfaction and are not the key ingredients to increasing employee motivation. An employer/employee relationship is a personal relationship. And when someone in a personal relationship feels that the other one cares, they are incentivized to put their all into that relationship. Proper employee incentives will motivate your employees to give you their best.